Developing Authentic Connections
More than 300 graduates shared stories with The Australian National University’s alumni team for ANU 75 Features, a storytelling project about alumni connections. Seventy-five of those stories were then published on ANU’s alumni website during its 75th anniversary year in 2021–2022.
The project offered the alumni team a way to reconnect with graduates, and a chance for graduates to reconnect with each other after the pause in engagement during the global pandemic.
“Following the pandemic and everyone in the world going through momentous change, we needed a heartwarming and authentic project to reconnect with our global alumni base,” explains Zeba Salman, Director, Alumni Relations. “75 Features enabled us to share stories to a mass audience on a very personal level.”
The alumni team received stories from across demographics, including graduates in Oceania, Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas, as well as those who graduated from the 1950s to the 2020s. The stories selected for publication showcased graduates’ diversity, with the team focusing on stories featuring four types of relationships: love, mentorship, friendship, and intergenerational connections.
One such story featured an economics graduate who had been an international student from Pakistan in the early 1980s. His two sons also went on to major in finance at ANU (pictured above). All three spoke with Salman from separate Zoom windows to share their stories for 75 Features.
She says, “It was the first time they were ever talking about this as a family and sharing their varying memories of campus life across the decades. Back in the 1980s, the father was only amongst a handful of South Asian students, whereas his sons experienced a much more multicultural campus.”
As alumni team members began to travel again in 2022, they took advantage of another project celebrating the anniversary—ANU 75 Cities—to meet alumni in person who had shared stories for 75 Features and record video interviews to add more multimedia elements to the project.
“We wanted our stories to come alive, and mixed media was an essential component of that. We found creative solutions to work with freelancers around the world to help us develop a series of short video features. We also invited the same alumni to headline our events as emcees. Our alumni were the ‘faces’ of both our features and our events,” says Salman.
Many alumni who shared stories hadn’t previously engaged with ANU, making the project a good way to build relationships with new volunteers. Now, ANU’s student recruitment team is also using 75 Features. The diversity the stories showcase is particularly relevant to their efforts.
Salman says what she enjoyed most about the project was facilitating the type of storytelling that inspires alumni connections that are not necessarily quantifiable.
About the author(s)
Hannah Ratzer is Editorial Specialist at CASE.
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